The Padma Bridge Saga
The World Bank announcement canceling the $1.2 billion credit to Bangladesh for Padma Bridgeconstruction may have shocked most people in Bangladesh. However, it is no surprise to the peopleeither at the World Bank or other development agencies who have been monitoring Padma Bridgedevelopment over last one year or so. I can understand the shock and surprise of the average person inthe country, but I cannot understand why people in the country who have been deeply involved indiscussions with the World Bank through the run up to this cancellation announcement of June 29 bythe World Bank should be surprised or pretend to be surprised.The Bank first communicated with our Government on the reported foul play in the bidding for hiringmanagement consultants for the Project and the findings of the institution on this suspectedshenanigans by some of our top public servants as early as September, 2011. Instead of working withthe Bank on this reported misconduct and illegality, and carrying out an impartial investigation ourresponse has been a stubborn denial of any wrong doing and defense of the persons accused of corruption. Instead of removing this cloud of suspicion of misdeeds, and examining the evidencesproffered by the Bank through a mutually acceptable third party, we engaged our own investigators whohave defined limits and authority to operate. We did not seem to care or mind if the investigation canbe fair or impartial when the people suspected of perpetrating the alleged misconduct are kept inpositions of power and authority. Should we be surprised if the World Bank cancels the Credit?I understand the discomfiture and indignation of our senior public servants and national leaders at thedisassociation of the World Bank from such a nationally important project. And that too on charges of venality by some public servants tasked with implementing the project. But could we not have avoidedthis discomfiture and indignation by taking actions to make right what went wrong? No country wants tobe dictated how to conduct its policies, let alone how to govern. However, when a country asks forpartners to assist in its development, it consults with the partners and takes their advice.
The World Bank has been Bangladesh’s development partner sinc
e its birth. It provides a major part of funds for our annual development program. Most of our major development projects carried out in lastforty years was spear headed by the Bank.The financial assistance that comes from the World Bank is actually funded by IDA (InternationalDevelopment Agency)
the low cost financing arm of the World Bank Group. The financial assistance,called Credit, bears no interest- and is repayable over 30-40 years. Each Credit has a small commitmentfee. IDA Credits are available to very low income countries of the World. Bangladesh is among fifty orso low income countries that currently receive this type of assistance. The World Bank assistance forPadma Bridge was also a no-interest Credit for $1.2 billion. A major fallout of this cancellation is that wehave to seek an alternative source, but at a higher cost.